Forest Management in Bangladesh

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Forest Management in Bangladesh -An approach to a Community-based Sustainable Biodiversity

Bangladesh, the largest Delta of the world, situated in the south-east Asia, has a unique geographic location (20o34’N – 26o38’N latitude, to 88o1’E – 92o41’E longitude). Spanning a relatively short stretch of land between the mighty Himalayas to the north and the open Indian Ocean to the south, the country can be classified into physiographical regions, like – flood plains occupying about 80%, terrace about 8% and hills about 12% of the land area. The 1998-99 national census recorded a population of 129.1 million, a density of 755 persons per sq km. (today it is near about 150 million). It enjoys a sub-tropical monsoon climate, where the winter begins from November and ends by February, when the temp. varies from 7.22oC-12.77oC to 23.88oC-31.11oC. The monsoon starts by July and continues till October, which accounts for 80% of the total rainfall, where the annual average is 1,429mm to 4,338mm (BBS 1996). As a tropical country, BD enjoys a wide range of bio-diversity, covering both wild and cultivated land. Of the total area of the country (147,570 sq. km.), 64% is Agricultural land, 18% is Forest (according to the Forest Dept.) and another 8% covers the Urban areas; Water and other land uses account for another 10%. About 2.6 million hectare or 18% of  the total land area of 14.8 million hectare is categorized under forest land, which includes the state forest land (2.2 million hectare) and private homestead forests (0.27 million hectare). The total Forest area in Bangladesh was last reported as 11.08% in 2010, according to a World Bank report released in 2011.

The Forest type in BD plays a significant role in the  country’s economy. It contributes to the livelihood and subsistence needs of the predominantly rural population. It provides a source of energy, supplies forest products such as fuel-wood, fodder, timber, poles, thatching grass, medicinal herbs, construction materials and contributes to the conservation and improvement of the country’s environment. A forest area is a land under natural or planted stands of trees of at least 5 meters in situ, whether productive or not, and excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems (for example, in fruit plantations and agro-forestry systems) and trees in urban parks and gardens. Bangladesh is considered as a developing economy which has recorded GDP growth above 5% during the last few years. Micro-credit has been a major driver of economic development in Bangladesh and although three fifths (3/5th) of Bangladeshis are employed in the agricultural sector, three quarters (3/4th) of export revenues come from garments industry. The biggest obstacles to sustainable development in Bangladesh are overpopulation, poor infrastructure, corruption, political instability and a slow implementation of economic reforms.

BD is situated on the second largest river system in the world, which drains a total area of 1,086,000 sq.km. from China, Nepal, India and BD. This unique drainage location of the country results in an annual flooding of about 50% of the total landmass. With a growing population of 150 million, continued gaps in the country’s policy and legislation or their implementation, and ever conflicting institutional mandates, 90% of the natural forests and 50% of the FW wetlands has been lost or degraded.

So, the degradation of natural capital and biodiversity has seriously and directly been impacted on the food security, nutrition and income of the poor people. At present context, the average temp. is expected to rise between 1.1o – 6.4oC by 2100 and in that case, even a 2oC temp. rise will submerge 20-22% of the country’s landmass, increasing the flooding area and impacting another 20-25 million people.

 

Forest Types in Bangladesh

There are four major types of forests in BD depending upon their ecosystems, which are –

1.     The Mangrove Forests
2.     The Tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests
3.     The Tropical moist deciduous Forests
4.     The Village Patchy Forests

1.     The Mangrove Forests :

  1. a. Natural Mangrove Forests –

The Sundarban is a single tract of natural mangrove forest, largest in the World. It consists of a total of 6,01,700 hectare which is 4.07% of total landmass of the country and 40% of total forest land. Sundarban harbours 334 species of trees, shrubs and epiphytes and 269 species of wild animals. World-renowned Royal Bengal Tiger is the magnificent inhabitant of Sundarban. 1,39,700 hectare forest land of Sundarban is declared as World Heritage Site, where three wildlife sanctuaries viz. Sundarban East, Sundarban West and Sundarban South wildlife sanctuaries are located. The forest inventory of 1998 exhibits that there is 12.26 million cubic meter timber available from plant species of Sundri (Heritiera fomes), Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha), Keora (Sonneratia apetala), Baen (Avecennia officinalis), Dhundul (Xylocarpus granatum), Passur (Xylocarpus mekongensis) etc. Sundri is the most important tree species in the Sundarban, which is distributed over 73% of the reserve. Extent of Sundri is followed by Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha), Baen (Avecinnia offecinalis), Passur (Xylocarpur mekongensis), Keora (Sonneratia apetala) etc. There are some other non-wood forest products like Golpata (Nypa fruticans), honey, wax, fish, crab etc., which are also of high value. Sundarban is a unique habitat for a number of wildlife. Among them some mammals are Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), Gangetic Dolphin (Platanista gangetica), Monkey (Macaca mulatta), Indian Fishing cat (Felis viverrina), Indian Otter (Lutra perspicillata), Spotted Deer (Axis axis) etc. Reptiles like Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator), Rock Python (Python molurus) and Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) etc. are also found.

 

b. Mangrove Plantation

Mangrove afforestation along the entire southern coastal frontier is an innovation of foresters. During 1960-61, Government undertook afforestation program along the shore land of coastal districts. This initiative got momentum from 1980-81 with the aid of development partners and afforestation programs, are now extended over foreshore islands, embankments and along the open coasts. Since 1960-61 up to 1999-2000, 142,835 hectare of mangrove plantations have been raised under a number of coastal afforestation projects. The present net area of mangrove plantation is 132,000 hectare after losing some area due to natural calamities.

 

2.     The Tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests.

They are extended over Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong H/T and Sylhet, totaling an area of 6,70,000 hectare, which is 4.54% of the total landmass of the country and 44% of natural forest land. Depending on Topography, Rainfall, Soil and Climate change, these forest types can be categorized as – Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests and  Tropical semi-evergreen Forests. The hill forests are abundant with numerous pant and animal species. Some of the important plants are – Garjan (Dipterocarpus sp.), Chapalish (Artocarpus chaplasha), Telsur (Hopea odorata), Tali (Palaquium plyanthrum), Kamdev (Callophylum polyanthum), Uriam (Mangifera sylvatica), Jarul (Legarstromia speciosa), Civit (Swintonia floribunda), Toon (Cedrela toona), Bandarholla (Duabanga grandiflora), etc. moreover Bamboos, Canes, Climbers and Ferns of different species are found.

These forests are brought under plantation program since 1871 and at present is conducted under development projects. Some of the valuable plantation species are Teak (Tectona grandis), Gamar (Gmelina arborea), Mehogani (Swietenia sp.), Chapalish (Artocarpus chaplasha), Jarul (Legarstromia speciosa), Koroi (Albizzia sp.), Chikrassi (Chikrassia tabula), Pynkado (Xylia dolabriformis), Kadam (Anthocephalus cadamba), Telsur (Hopea odorata) etc. The latest forest inventory shows that a total of – 23,93 million cubic meter forest produces are available there. Among the mammals Elephant (Elephas maximus), monkey (Macaca mulatta), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak), Samvar (Cervus unicolor), and Indian Leopard (Panthera pardus). Among the reptiles King cobra (Ophiophagus hanna) Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator) and Bengal Monitor Lizard (Varanus bengalensis) are remarkable.

 

3. The Tropical moist deciduous Forests:

The Central and northern districts covering an area of 1,20,000 hectare, about 0.81% of total land mass of the country and 7.8% of the country’s forest land, are bestowed with Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests. This forest is intermingled with the neighbouring settlements and fragmented into smaller patches. Sal (Shorea robusta) is the main species there with other associates, like – Koroi (Albizzia procera), Azuli (Dillenia pentagyna), Sonalu (Cassia fistula), Bohera (Terminalia belerica), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Kanchan (Bauhinia acuminata), Jarul (Lagerstroemia speciosa), Jam (Syzygium sp.) etc. A recent forest inventory encountered that 3.75 million cubic meter wood available in the sal forests. Presently participatory forestry program are being implemented here under the social forestry initiatives. Among the mammals, Jackel (Canis aureus), Monkey (Macaca mulatta), Wild cat (Felis chaus) etc. are found there and among the reptiles Bengal Monitor Lizard (Varanus bengalensis) and Common Cobra (Naja naja naja) are remarkable.

 

4. The Village Patchy Forests:

Tree coverage in the village forests are 2,70,000 hectare, which acts as the source of a remarkable portion of national demand of forest produces. The latest inventory exhibits that a total of 54.7 million cubic meter forest produces are available in this village forests.

Cause of Forest Degradation.

The direct or indirect threats which have been dominating over the forests and their products of Bangladesh are multifarious, and directly related to the socio-economic condition of local people as well as the continued environmental changes in area. The main threats, which have threatened the normalcy of many of our forests to a greater extent, are –

  1. Construction of ‘Baids’ for the production of rice and other crops along the forest.
  2. Poverty of the local people and their conflict for occupying forest areas.
  3. Insufficient support and monitoring from the Govt.
  4. Lack of knowledge of the local population, about the value of forests and forest products.
  5. Spelling pollutants near a forest land, caused from domestic and industrial wastes.
  6. Indiscriminate cutting of vegetation, lumber pouching and commercial logging etc.

The recent drive to protect the forests and forest products in our country to achieve a sustainable biodiversity – is a timely approach to protect and utilize our natural resources. The Deciduous, Evergreen and Mangrove forests of our country serve as a diverse habitat for a huge number of flora and fauna, which are not only important for the natural balance, but also for their socio-economic stand-point, a role they play in our very rich eco-systems. The livelihoods of the countrymen inhabiting in or near the forests are solely dependant on their natural resources. Besides, commercial programs like – rice and shrimp cultivation, marketing of forest-wood and forest products like – fish, honey etc. are directly involved with the forests and mangroves, which solely supports the local inhabitants for their livelihood. So, the scientific management of our resourceful forest lands with a view to preserve them as well as encourage eco-tourism, is as essential means to increase the country’s economy as well as to support the local community towards poverty alleviation. As the natality rate in the country is higher and the increasing population has been exceeding 150 million, and at the top of that, the southern belt is frequently being interrupted by natural calamities like – Ayela, Cedar, tidal bore, surge, inundation etc., the forests of our country are under heavy pressure. The degradation of those areas has been causing several problems, like – the extinction and reduction of wildlife, and varieties of rice and aquatic plants, herbs, shrubs and weeds, loss of natural nutrients and natural water reserves etc. So, a scientific endeavor to preserve and culture the forests could help protect them as well as, it would promote the country’s economy to a greater extent.

The institutions developed so far in the country, to propagate the spirit, education and expatriation for the protection, conservation and management of our forest resources as well as the implementation of Laws are negligible. But, a few Govt. and Non-Govt. institutions have been playing a considerable role in this concern, like – the Ministry of Land, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. Forest Dept., Flood Plain Co-ordination Organization (FPCO), The Space Research snf Remote Sensing Organization (SPARSO) and USAID, especially its “NISHORGO” network, as well as, a few NGOs like – The Botanical Society of BD, The Zoological Society of BD, BAAS, BRGB, NACOM, CARINAM, Wildlife Trust of BD, etc., which are playing an important role in conserving of our Forests and their resources. Alongside, a few laws prevails in the country along with a few sectoral lagislations, like –

  • The Forest Act 1927 (amended), that prohibits hunting, shooting and fishing in the reserved forests.
  • BD Wildlife preservation Act 1974 (amended), that prohibits hunting, killing and capturing of animals prescribed for protection.
  • The Acquisition of Waste Land Act, 1950.
  • The CultureWasteLand Ordinance, 1959.
  • The Canal Act, 1927.
  • The irrigation act, 1864.
  • The Environmental Pollution Control Ordinance, 1977.
  • The Land Reform Board Act, 1989.
  • The Agricultural Pest Ordinance, 1962.
  • The Embankment and Drainage Act, 1952.
  • The Penal Code, 1860.
  • The Non Agricultural Tenancy Act, 1947.

 

The conservation programs adopted so far are not few and funds allocated in this concern are also considerable. The international policy and legal assistance adopted for the nature conservation has been underway, funded by various organizations, like – WWF-USA, WWF-Malaysia, Canadian Intl. Dev. Agency (CIDA), Embassy of Switzerland, Nagao Natural Environment Foundation (NEF) of Japan, BD Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), Ashoka-Innovators for the Public of USA, Birdlife Intl. of UK, Govt. Forest Dept., Ministry of Science and Technology, Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Royal Society for Bird Preservation (RSBP) of UK, Excelsior Group of Companies, Sena Kalayan Sangshtha, BD Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), for various purpose, especially Bird and other animal survey. So, it is very helpful that the Govt. and the NGOs plan for further research and development of our resourceful forests, their inhabitants and neighbours. In this context, the Nature Conservation Movement (NACOM) has been playing a considerable role since 80s, which can be a Role Model for other organizations working for the same purpose. They have the target for developing programs like –

  • Green Vessel for Nature Watch and Education.
  • National Wetlands Forum
  • Nature, Women & Children
  • Environmental Safety & Risk Management
  • Captive Propagation of Game animals & Eco-product Development.
  • Nature Tours / Private Safari/ Wetland Park.
  • Nature News.
  • BanglaCoast Laboratory.
  • BD Red Data Book for Wildland and Wildlife.
  • Nature Credit Program for ‘Value-added Natural resource-based product development’.

NACOM has already completed the following programs and has been planning for others –

  • Non-formal Environmental Education for Biodiversity Conservation – Supported by BRAC.
  • People-Participatory Biodiversity Research & Conservation – Supported by Nagao Natural Env. Foundation (NEF), Japan.
  • Survey of a Turtle – Batagur baska – Supported by WWF-Malaysia / IUCN-SSC-Fresh water Turtle Specialist Group.
  • Survey of Biological and Trade-Status of Monitor Lizards – Supported by CMC/CITES.
  • Survey of Otters – Sponsored by WWF-US / IUCN-SSC-OSG
  • People-Participatory Ecosystem Conservation – Supported by Ashoka : Innovators for the Public, USA
  • Wetlands Biodiversity Assessment – Supported by NERP/CIDA/AWB/NACOM.
  • Survey and study of Green Frog, Turtles & Tortoises, Threatened Waterfowl, River Dolphin and Elephants – Supported by – Govt. Forest Department and Ministry of Environment & Forests.

Forest management in Bangladesh

Forest Resources are the important economy of Bangladesh. They are renewable resources, which can provides timber, pulp, pole, fuel wood, food, medicine, and habitat for wildlife and primary base for biodiversity. It can also provide oxygen, control or reduce the intensity of cyclones and tidal surges in the coastal areas, influences the rainfall and sustained water yield in the river systems etc. Moreover, these forests are also used for hunting and nature based tourism. Now a day, eco-tourism is the more attractive type of tourism, which could be an alternative mechanism for environmentally sustainable development without depleting the forest resources and its habitat and biodiversity. Considering all these, forest itself and its management are getting importance throughout the world with the passage of time. There are two types of Forest Management in Bangladesh.

1. Past Forest Management

2. Present Forest Management

Past Forest Management:

Scientific forest management in this sub-continent was started during British rule by the appointment of Sir D. Brandis as the Inspector General of Forest in 1865. A separate forest department was created for Bengal in 1876. Chittagong Forest Division was the first division created in Bangladesh by Bjritish rulers in 1872 and the Sundarban Forest Division was created in 1879. In those days, forests were managed primarily for revenue collection under the control of Revenue Department. Only valuable trees were extracted from the forest to get more revenue, Keeping in mind the importance of forest, a forest management plan or work plan was prepared for each forest division. This management plan guided forest manager to manage forest or to perform day-to-day work in the forest. This plan spelled out where to cut trees, how much to cut and what to plant to cover up the cleared up forest etc. on annual basis.

Present Forest Management:

There is a fundamental difference between past and present forest management in Bangladesh. It depends on its objectives and philosophy. Present forest management objectives are not only to produce timber, but also to provide clean air, clean water, and healthy habitat for wildlife and to act as a major source of biodiversity and nature-based tourism. The present philosophy of forest management is to involve people in the management and create an environment so that people can feel that they have also some stakes on trees growing on the forest land and to improve living standard of the people residing in the vicinity of the forest.

Present Management objectives:

Through the assistances of ADB, UNDP and FAO, the present forest management plan is established under the guidance of Forestry Master Plan (FMP) in 1993. The objectives of present forest management are –

  1. To enhance environment preservation and conservation.
  2. To introduce rational forest land use.
  3. To increase public participation and benefit from the forest.
  4. To create forests on marginal and private lands.
  5. To setup institutional strengthening.
  6. To improve management practices.
  7. To improve efficient resource utilization.

In BD, poverty and natural resource dependence is strongly linked with each other, as the country’s natural capital plays a critical role in the economy. USAID’s climate change activities in BD, has been trying to improve the energy sector through efficient energy and renewable energy usage, as well as to improve the natural resource management such as water and tropical forests. It has strengthened the capacity of BD Govt. and the local NGOs to carry out these improvements. This program is helping to protect and restore BD’s natural resources in such a way, that promotes the livelihoods and economic growth for the rural poor, introducing and advancing good governance practices.

USAID’s assistance in this concern focuses on conservation of natural resources and expanding broad-based economic opportunities by developing a model that devolves environmental management to the local communities, whose lives are directly or indirectly dependent on natural capital. It has sponsored a number of co-management projects till date, which have created a successful model of co-management in Fresh Water Ecosystems and Forests. The local communities co-manage the environment in conjunction with the forest officials.

USAID’s goal over the next five years is to achieve recognition of the co-management approach by the Govt. and its integration into Govt.’s management tactics, which will result in –

  1. Developing a co-management strategy that applies to all eco-systems of the country.
  2. Benefiting two and a half million people through the direct assistance of  USAID  in managing over 50 protected areas.
  3. Developing eco-friendly job opportunities and finance conservation efforts of the Govt., by sharing park fees with the local communities.
  4. Adding another 350,000 hectares of land, co-managed by the communities and the Govt.
  5. Benefiting economically 500,000 rural poor through the achievement of the above four targets and the USAID’s pro-poor economic growth strategy.

 In addition to that, these results are expected to have a multiplier effect on BD’s overall conservation efforts, promoting climate change through adaptation to its vulnerabilities and improved use of landmass. Besides, USAID encourages the use of natural gas, a source of clean energy, and reduction of energy demands through renewable energy solution.

It is encouraging that the official management plans have been approved and are being implemented for both conserving and benefiting from the Protected Forest Areas. The quality of those areas have improved in visible and tangible ways, as all the pilot sites continuously conduct information kiosks, to interpret information and explain the ways and means to achieve the target. As a result, forests that were slowly disappearing are now returning to health and the key measured indicator species are proving that the forest is returning. The improvement in such important resources have spurred increased economic opportunities that directly benefit the poor. Conservation enterprises have expanded, including eco-cottages, eco-guides, export quality handicrafts, sales of informational materials at protected area entries. Very recently, the Govt. has approved the principle of sharing entry fees with the local community of all pilot protected areas with Councils co-managing them. The USAID “Nishorgo” effort can be interpreted as a conglomeration of conservation efforts leading to important economic opportunities, namely the  conservation of carbon through protection of woody biomass and the increased production of biomass.

To sum up the whole and to recommend for a better future, we should think over a few vital points.

  1. At the top, the pressure of our Population should be reduced and their basic requirements should be fulfilled. So, organizations should come forward to develop sustainable pathway to conserve our forest resources through collaborative participatory actions. Should the public not be concerned or included in this program and are not provided with some alternative income generating sources – all endeavors done will turn into smokes.
  2. Another big threat lies on the construction of  industries at the margin or next to a forest, that has been going on since the recent past, in our country. It continuously dumps or spells the industrial wastes as well as household wastes, in the water body or inside the forest area. Besides, people and their cattle always interrupt the normalcy of the forest to a greater extent. The industrial wastes can easily be controlled by recycling method, and the resident people can change their habits through proper education and motivation.
  3. The third and the real target for Forest Management lies on the scientific utilization of the forest resources in a sustainable and income generating source to make way for an economic growth of the local people as well as the Government.

But, above all, we must keep in mind that, our Forests are dynamic ecosystems, which can change over a period of time. Despite protection from external or internal threats they may degenerate into pasture or patchy forests due to heavy pressure of population, their housing or pollution and the overuse of forest products. Moreover, cultivation around the forest causes leeching and leaking out of nutrients out of the forest, drastically affecting the growth of plants and their products. Besides, human interference in the forest will compel animals to migrate to a nearby hideout for a safer existence. As for instance, many of the tigers in the Sundarbans have found their secured home today in its adjoining counterpart in India. So, any activity related to habitat disruption to the plants or territorial threat to the animals should crucially be avoided.

-Mizanur Rahman Bhuiyan

Founder Director, Notre Dame Nature Study Club &
Founder Chairman, Nature Study Society of BD (NSSB)

Ref.-

  1. www.forestbd.blogspot.com
  2. www.rainforests.mongabay.com
  3. www.fao.org
  4. www.kosovo.info.usaid.gov/bd – an USAID report
  5. www.mediabangladesh.net – an USAID internet report.

 

 

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